We caught up with Chase on his life in Knoxville, what it’s like playing for manager Tony Vitello and preparing for the 2023 baseball season.
SIXSTAR: You had a great sophomore season, leading the SEC in Earned Run Average and posting an undefeated record. How do you get better in 2023?
Chase: There’s always something to work on if you want to get better. For me, that’s developing my off-speed so that I can use my other pitches more. So things like my curveball and my change-up, using them against hitters to throw them off because they’re going to be better prepared to face me than they were last year.
I’m a different person than I was last season, and developing my off-speed is going to be key for me. Along with that, I’ve been training really hard, trying to gain some muscle and gain some weight so I can throw harder than last year.
Math has become an important part of the game today — things like Exit Velo and Launch Angle. How much of that do you pay attention to now and paid attention to growing up?
When I was growing up and watching, I’d never heard of it. But it’s become really important in pitching and hitting. I try not to pay attention to it too much because you can get very deep into it and at a certain point it can become detrimental to what you’re trying to do as a pitcher.
At the end of the day, you have to go out there and use what you have for that day and compete with what you’ve got. So the numbers can only go so far in that case. In the off-season, it can be really good to look at different things, see how things are moving and see how things are playing with hitters. And then you can kind of just kind of jump into it and really work on different things.
SIXSTAR: What’s it been like playing at Tennessee and playing in that kind of community and atmosphere?
Chase: It’s been crazy! These fans have our back no matter what. And we feed off of their energy because of the fact that they are so loud. Look at the Tennessee-Alabama football game this past fall and that was one of those things where the team was so hyped up because of how loud our fans were. That directly correlates to baseball too. We have a small stadium, but that small stadium makes everything so much louder. It’s extremely loud for a baseball game.
Coming to Knoxville has been a dream come true for me. I’ve been able to work on things I didn’t know that I should and it’s helped me become a better pitcher. Playing for Coach Vitello and him leading us through all this buzz around our program has been nothing but a blessing. He truly does care for us as people and as athletes—and he’s going to do whatever he can for us. He’s truly a player’s coach and it’s the most wonderful thing that you can have as an athlete.
What’s it like being in the athlete dorm and being surrounded by athletes in that competitive and supportive environment?
All the athletes here on campus are some of the nicest people I’ve met. I kind of figured that some of them would feel a little bit entitled coming here, but that’s not the case at all. All these athletes have each other’s backs. We all root for each other. We all try to compete, sport to sport, trying to see who can beat one another. And that fuels the competitive environment for when we do play somebody else. Whenever it’s time to strap it up on the field, we just do what we do—and the rest of it takes care of itself.
You picked your NIL partners with your training and the draft in mind. This is something that wasn’t available to college athletes less than two years ago. Your approach is very methodical and smart—tell us about it.
My approach is working with companies that are going to help me recover the best way possible and help me become the best picture that I can be. And SIXSTAR is a company I really enjoy working with because they’re able to do just that. SIXSTAR protein and hydration help me accelerate my gains to the next level. I also talked about gaining weight in the offseason and SIXSTAR protein is really good for that. The approach I take is working with companies that help me become the next-tier picture. If I establish that now, and establish that I’m focused on recovery, it’s only going to get better as I get into the professionals.
Obviously the NCAA tournament didn’t end the way you would have liked it to, falling in super regionals. What do you guys need to do in 2023 to reach your end goal and play The College World Series in Omaha?
I’ll say two things about that. The first thing is you kind of have to wipe what happened last year. Last year’s team is last year’s team—and this is this year’s team. You have to find your own identity within that team and just kind of gel together, work together and become a close group. If you’re not going to be close, you’re not going to trust one another. And if that happens, you’re not going to make it as far as you want.
The other thing is you’ve just got to work—plain and simple. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s just one of those things that’s proven to work and proven to be successful—hard work. And that’s instilled in us here. And we really do put in a lot of work here. That’s one of the main things that we have to do is work a little bit harder.
Tell us about your day-to-day routine as a student athlete. It really is a second full-time job, in addition to being a student.
We have an athletic dining hall here that’s for athletes only, so I wake up, go to breakfast there and then I have class usually from 9:45am to about 12pm. And then I go back to the athletic dining hall, grab lunch and come to the field. We don’t start practice until 2:30pm or 3pm so I usually spend that time either hanging out with my teammates when I’m doing mobility or arm care, getting ready for the day. Then we’ll start practice. Let’s say we start practice at 3pm, then we finish around 7pm. That’s including lists and stuff like that. After that, we eat dinner, do some homework and go to bed. It’s a routine I’ve stuck to and it’s worked for me.
What’s your diet like on a typical day, or does it change?
It changes a little bit depending on how I’m feeling. I try to eat pretty healthy so I stay leaner and not gain a whole bunch of fat. In the mornings, I’ll eat some eggs, fruit and maybe some sausage. For lunch, it’s usually chicken, rice and some sort of vegetable. And then dinner, sometimes it’s spaghetti, sometimes it’s chicken. I feel like my diet is pretty good. I also throw a couple of protein shakes in between meals.
Growing up, who did you watch, pay attention to and try to emulate on the ballfield?
I was a Braves fan growing up. So when I was a kid, I looked up to John Smoltz a lot. But as I’ve gotten older, pitching has changed a lot. I really like watching Jacob deGrom. He’s probably one of my favorite pitchers that I’ve ever seen pitch. His mechanics are fluid. He knows what he’s doing. He can hit spots. He does all of that. And not only that, he can hit, too. He’s proven that—which is pretty sick. But when it comes to emulating somebody, I try not to emulate them because I try to be my own person.
I know I’ve had comparisons to Jacob’s deGrom’s mechanics and stuff like that—but to be honest with you—I see it as I am my own self. I want to be the best pitcher that I can be. I don’t want to be compared to somebody. Even though he is the best pitcher in the game right now, it’s still the fact that I’m my own person and I want to be the best that I can be.
Have you started to daydream at all about your moment where you may hear your name called at the MLB Draft and potentially join a big league organization — or at least compete against some of them in the near future?
Yeah—and ask any athlete and they’ll say they daydreamed about that, too. But my focus is here now, and so I try to keep it in the present moment. By doing that, it helps me stay focused on my current task at hand, so that way I can better prepare myself for when that moment comes. I’m not too worried about what happens in the future. I just try and take it day by day and work my hardest at it. And whatever happens, happens.